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NEWSLETTER > KF Interviews & Essays > The KF Global Museum Internship allowed me to gain practical experience and...

"The KF Global Museum Internship allowed me to gain practical experience and build a network with art professionals around the world."

An interview with KF Global Museum intern Kim Ji-won

When the Korea Foundation launched its Global Museum Internship project in 2011, its primary goal was to offer Korea’s graduate art students and junior curators an opportunity to acquire hands-on experience at leading museums abroad. Kim Ji-won was dispatched to the Guggenheim Museum in the U.S., from June to August, as part of the third group of interns of this well-received program. She responded to this email interview from the U.S. where she currently resides.

Q. How do you find out about this program?

"I majored in art history as an undergraduate, and I was interested in the kind of work they do at museums. I decided to enhance my expertise with a Ph.D., but before I did that, I wanted to have work experience at different museums in New York. I found out that a Brazilian colleague whom I met at the Museum of Modern Art had gotten support from the government, so I did some research, and that’s how I found out about the Korea Foundation’s program."

Kim studied art history at Dartmouth College and the humanities graduate school of the University of Chicago. After receiving her master’s degree, she worked as a research assistant at the Maryland Institute College of Art. She also completed an internship at MoMa in New York.

Q. Did you have any trouble applying?

"Not really. They were asking for pretty much the same things as other art museums. I was a bit nervous before my second interview with the senior curator, Alexandra Munroe, but she was really friendly and easy to talk to, so it was actually a fun interview."

Q. You applied for an assignment at the Guggenheim. Why was that?

"When I was in school, I referred a lot to books written by Dr. Munroe. I also went to New York every chance I got to see exhibitions at the Guggenheim, and visited the website a lot too."

Q. I heard you were assigned to the Asian art division. What kind of work did you do and what was the staff like?


“The Guggenheim set up its Asia division in 2006 to reflect the increasing globalization of modern art in its exhibitions. It’s mainly Dr. Munroe and the Chinese contemporary art curator, Dr. Thomas Berghuis. They’re the ones in charge of operations, everything from planning exhibitions to purchasing art.”


Q. What was the working environment like?

"It's a very free environment. You spend your time independently researching the projects you’re assigned, and then every Monday there’s a department meeting to look over the progress and have discussions. The interns are an active part of the process, and you have a real sense of responsibility about the projects you’re in charge of."

Q. Does the Guggenheim have a systematic internship program?

"There are instruction sessions for the interns every week. It's a time when you can meet different people from the New York art community and get to know colleagues from other departments. I still keep in touch with my colleagues from around the world. We’re very close."

Q. How do the museum professionals at the Guggenheim feel about Korean art?

"Korean art is getting a good reception. There was one time it was presented in a major exhibition with the Lee Ufan retrospective, and they also have a few pieces by Korean artists in the collection. But there's still less interest than there is for Japanese or Chinese contemporary art, so they don’t actually have a curator who specializes in Korean art."

Q. How was your life in New York?

"When you're interning at the Guggenheim, you can get into every art museum in New York for free, and I was also able to attend various museum events as an employee. I also had many chances for other cultural experiences, things like music. It’s far more expensive than Seoul, though."

Kim said she would recommend the program to any young person interested in working at an art museum. Not only can you gain practical experience with purchasing art and planning exhibitions, but you can also help your career by building a network with art professionals from around the world. She also offered a word of advice: “It helps your application if you have a lot of different experiences.”

- Kim Sung Hee (Adjunct Professor of Communication & Media Studies, Sookmyung Women’s University)

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